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Meet Michelle Montjoy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Montjoy.

Michelle, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was a curious kid who was constantly asking questions: why, why not, and how come? I was a daydreamer and a doodler, and was always, always making something. My mother was generous- gave my three sisters and me lots of paper (never coloring books) and tinfoil to sculpt. I remember spending hours putting together Mouse Trap in ways other than the schematic on the box. Our family moved about every two years so I was often that new kid.

Art class became my sanctuary and my identity. In the summers we took long car trips in the station wagon. After you fought with your sisters enough you just looked out the window. I remember having lots and lots of time with “nothing” to do. I can see now how my art reflects so much of my childhood. I am constantly making, always asking questions and cultivate daydreaming and play in my studio.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There are always bumps along the road- frustrations about not enough time, space, energy, balancing home life, making a living and the need to make art. I have an urgency and drive precisely because of the rough times.

Michelle Montjoy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The work I do now is an integration of my years as a public school art teacher, being a parent, a citizen and a maker. I have a deep belief in the process of making, and many of my projects are based on engaging people in that. I organize socially engaged projects that start with my questions about access, connection, isolation, the passage of time, and the meditation in repetitive actions.

I knit with groups on oversized tabletop looms to make museum installations, kids finger crochet with me using used t-shirts to make soft environments to sit, swing and play, or we may consider what we count while needle pointing tally marks on old linens.

Participants start by moving their hands, an antithetic approach to many educational models, but a process deeply invested in women’s history.  The flattened hierarchy of sitting around a table embraces sharing stories and laughter. The slight absurdity of the forms we are making gives a freedom to the actions and intentions of the participants, and perhaps an insight into contemporary art.

My studio work ranges from room-sized installations to tiny embroidery, using form and language to explore my citizenship, my culpability and my frustrations. The studio works often bring me to questions that lead me to a new social project, which leads me to another exploration in the studio and around and around.

Hindsight has shown me some of the most life-changing things often happen in those unexpected, unplanned, sometimes ridiculous moments you say “why not?” For years while I was raising three kids and teaching I cobbled together random hours in the studio, entered maybe one juried show a year and grabbed classes at local community colleges at night. One of those classes at Palomar College ended up morphing into a vibrant and diverse critique group. We met once a month to talk about our art, periodically loaded up in a minivan to visit museums and galleries in LA, and even took some epic road trips to see Land Art around the west.

During this time I collaborated with Bill Feeney who was teaching at Palomar on some community art projects that paired my elementary students with college students in some art based explorations. Groundwork for sure for the projects I do now.

For the past few years, I have had incredible opportunities around town. I have done large community projects as a Creative Catalyst grant fellow in 2016 with Oceanside Museum of Art (River), and a CAC Artists Engaging Communities grant with Art Produce in 2017 (DomesticACTion). I have a knitted installation on view right now in the San Diego Airport as part of the Figure of Speech exhibition. (terminal 2 near gate 27) My embroidery will be shown in a show called That’s What She Said at Boehm gallery in August/September, and I am honored to be one of 42 artists from the Tijuana/San Diego region to be included in MCASD’s Being Here with You/ Estando Aqui Contigo opening Sept 20, 2018.

Then in October, I am collaborating with Anna O’Cain and Siobhan Arnold on a community project at 1805 gallery in Little Italy. To Do is a project centered around the idea of mending. Our wonderful community of artists and makers will be offering free workshops in all sorts of things from how to glue things together, to breathing lessons, to darning socks. Folks can find more information about the project soon at both Instagram: ToDoproject1805 and our website: ToDomendingproject.org

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is a tricky word that usually comes laden with art as only commerce. I strive for contentment- If I get a laugh or a shared story, connect a few people, or have someone discover a maker in themselves I am content. In my studio, I try to make objects and images that are authentic, responsive and open. It happens a lot less often than you would think, but when it does, there is a deep resonance and fulfillment that I would maybe, delicately, ephemerally call success.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Pablo Mason, Tisha Kawcak, Michael Field

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